Science, Humanity, and Atrocity: A Lawyerly Examination

Joseph Vining’s reflection on (as the subtitle indicates) the claims of science and humanity begins with a terse but disturbing recitation of these and similar scientific experiments conducted on human beings during the twentieth century in Manchuria, Nazi Germany, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The incidents are conveyed through quotations, sometimes of the coldly clinical prose that the researchers themselves chose as most suitable for their purposes. These quotations are juxtaposed against others from an array of distinguished scientists and philosophers explaining the naturalistic cosmology that, in the view of these thinkers, modern science has given us: it is a stark, cold cosmos without inherent meaning, purpose, or value. “The more the universe seems comprehensible,” Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg remarks, “the more it also seems pointless.”